Cophixalus australis , Hoskin, Conrad J., 2012

Hoskin, Conrad J., 2012, Two new frog species (Microhylidae: Cophixalus) from the Australian Wet Tropics region, and redescription of Cophixalus ornatus, Zootaxa 3271, pp. 1-16: 4-8

publication ID 10.5281/zenodo.213023

persistent identifier

treatment provided by


scientific name

Cophixalus australis

sp. nov.

Cophixalus australis  sp. nov.

Southern Ornate Nursery-frog ( Figs 2View FIGURE 2 A, 2 B)

Material examined. Holotype: QMJ 43655View Materials, male, Mt Spec, Paluma Ra. (18 ° 57 ′S, 146 ° 11 ′E), north-east Queensland, C. Corben, 11 January 1976. Paratypes: QMJ 39923View Materials, North Bell Peak, Malbon Thompson Ra. (17 °05′S, 145 ° 53 ′E); QMJ 50700View Materials, Douglas Ck Rd, Kirrama Ra. (18 ° 12 ′S, 145 ° 45 ′E, elevation 800 m); QMJ 61251View Materials, Mid Macks, Kirrama Ra. (18 °02′ 30 ″S, 145 ° 36 ′ 30 ″E); QMJ 65377View Materials, Kirrama Ra. (18 °01′ 30 ″S, 145 ° 35 ′ 30 ″E, elevation approx. 900 m); QMJ 70701View Materials, Lacey Ck, Mission Beach (17 ° 51 ′0 5 ″S, 146 °04′ 50 ″E, elevation 40 m); QMJ 70710View Materials, QMJ 70711View Materials, Loop track at picnic ground, Paluma township (19 °00′ 30 ″S, 146 ° 12 ′ 30 ″E, elevation 900 m); QMJ 70782View Materials, The Crater/Mt Hypipamee National Park (17 ° 25 ′ 54 ″S, 145 ° 29 ′0 8 ″E, elevation 980 m). Additional material: An additional 296 individuals were measured in the field, and mating calls were measured from 141 of these ( Table 2).

Diagnosis. Cophixalus australis  sp. nov. can be identified from similar congeners, except C. ornatus  and C. hinchinbrookensis  sp. nov., by the presence of large, truncated finger pads and by call, which is a ‘beep’ rather than a call with obvious pulses or notes. Cophixalus australis  sp. nov. can be reliably identified from C. ornatus  and C. hinchinbrookensis  sp. nov. genetically, using the loci outlined in Hoskin et al. (2011). For 16 S mtDNA, diagnostic SNPs are presented in Table 3. It can also be readily identified based on distribution. Cophixalus australis  sp. nov. does not co-occur with C. hinchinbrookensis  sp. nov. and only narrowly abuts the range of C. ornatus  ( Fig. 1View FIGURE 1). Cophixalus australis  sp. nov. differs from C. ornatus  and C. hinchinbrookensis  sp. nov. in multivariate analyses of mating call and some aspects of morphology (Hoskin et al. 2011), but these three species cannot be distinguished on any known single trait. Regarding colour pattern, the groin and posterior thigh generally lack a yellow wash in C. australis  sp. nov. (vs. typically present in C. ornatus  ; Fig. 2View FIGURE 2 F).

Etymology. From the Latin australis  for ‘southern’, in reference to the fact that this species occurs in the southern half of the Wet Tropics region. The epithet is to be treated as a noun in apposition.

Description of holotype ( Fig. 2View FIGURE 2 A). QMJ 43655View Materials; male. Measurements (mm): SVL 22.2; TL 8.2; FL 5.5; HW 7.7; HL 5.4; ED 2.2; EN 1.6; IN 1.3; 3 FL 3.1; 3 DW 1.1; 4 TL 4.6; 4 DW 1.0. Head: Narrower than body, triangular in dorsal view; snout moderately truncated at the nares, projecting in profile; canthus rostralis rounded, loreal region steep; nares much closer to tip of snout than to eye, nares anterolateral on tip of snout; eyes large; eye diameter greater than eye to naris distance; internarial distance about equal to distance from eye to naris; tympanum small (less than half diameter of eye) and indistinct beneath overlying skin, bordered dorsally by supratympanic fold. Body: Rotund. Limbs: Hindlimbs short, forearms relatively long; fingers and toes unwebbed; relative finger length 3> 2> 4> 1; fingers 2, 3 and 4 long and slender with large and truncated discs, first finger short with barely expanded small round disc; low, rounded inner and outer palmar tubercles; subarticular tubercles low, moderately prominent; relative length of toes 4> 3> 5> 2> 1, toe 4 very long and slender; large, truncated discs on toes 2, 3 and 4, discs smaller and more rounded on toes 1 and 5; low, rounded inner and outer metatarsal tubercles; subarticular tubercles low and rounded; discs on longest fingers larger than discs on longest toes. Skin: Ventral surface generally smooth, finely granular on belly; dorsal surfaces smooth with just a few low tubercles; distinct supra-tympanic fold. Colour pattern in preservative: Dorsal surfaces uneven brown, darker towards the head, with dark smudging on the lateral surface above the axilla and a dark band on the wrist of each forearm; pale lumbar ocelli bordered posteriorly by a dark bar; dark cloacal region. Loreal region dark, and a dark line along tympanic fold. Tympanum pale brown. White patches at the base of the finger and toe discs. Dark brown dorsal colouration merges to lighter brown on flanks. Ventral surface of head and body creamy-brown with fine light brown stippling, particularly under throat. Ventral surfaces of limbs brown; discs brown, tubercles white.

Description of type series (N = 9). Data presented as range followed by mean in brackets. Adult measurements (mm): SVL 18.3–24.3 (21.0); TL 7.4–9.8 (8.7); FL 4.3–5.8 (5.1); HW 6.5 –8.0 (7.3); HL 4.9–5.9 (5.3); ED 1.6–2.2 (2.0); EN 1.3–1.7 (1.5); IN 1.2–1.5 (1.3); 3 FL 2.8–3.7 (3.2); 3 DW 0.9–1.4 (1.2); 4 TL 3.9–5.4 (4.6); 4 DW 0.7 –1.0 (0.8). Adult proportions: TL/SVL 0.37–0.45 (0.42); FL/SVL 0.22–0.27 (0.24); FL/TL 0.53–0.67 (0.59); HW/SVL 0.29–0.39 (0.35); HL/SVL 0.23–0.29 (0.25); HW/HL 1.20–1.53 (1.38); ED/SVL 0.08–0.11 (0.10); EN/HL 0.25–0.33 (0.29); EN/IN 1.01–1.34 (1.16); EN/ED 0.62–0.94 (0.77); 3 FL/SVL 0.13–0.18 (0.15); 3 DW/SVL 0.045–0.069 (0.056); 4 TL/SVL 0.19–0.24 (0.22); 4 DW/SVL 0.031–0.045 (0.040); 3 DW/ 4 DW 1.13–1.63 (1.39). Comparison of sexes: Based on field measurements ( Table 2), females are generally larger (e.g. average SVL 25.5 vs. 22.7), have proportionally larger finger discs, and are bulkier (i.e. heavier relative to SVL). Colour pattern in preservative: Generally as for holotype (N = 5) – light brown background with areas of darker brown smudging and mottling. Several individuals (N = 3) have pale body with broad creamy yellow vertebral band edged with dark brown band. Consistent features on all specimens are: grey/brown triangle on snout, grey on eyelids, dark W-shaped mark on shoulders; pale lumbar ocelli marked behind by dark patch, irregular dark blotch above axilla on lateral surfaces, sometimes with associated dark blotches along the flanks, dark band from snout through eye and along supratympanic fold; generally a dark band on wrist, pale dots at base of finger and toe pads, often dark mottling on hindlimbs. Ventral surfaces variable: evenly pale (N = 6) or mottled grey (N = 2) or brown with white spotting (N = 1). Undersides of limbs generally brown, tubercles and pads generally pale.

Measurements of live individuals. Table 2 presents measurements for 288 males and 8 females in the field.

Colour pattern in life. Dorsal pattern highly variable. There are three broad morphs: (1) ‘mottled’— irregular dark markings on an uneven pale, orange or brown background; consistent dark markings being a dark W-shaped mark in the scapular region, an irregular dark bar across the top of the head between the eyes and a dark mark associated with pale lumbar ocelli, (2) ‘broad band’—a broad cream or yellow vertebral band bordered with black on a brown or dark background, and (3) ‘vertebral line’—a very thin cream or yellow vertebral line on an uneven brown or dark background, usually with accompanying thin line along hindlimbs. The first morph (mottled) is the most common but individuals with vertebral bands are present in most populations. Dorsal markings found on all morphs include pale or yellow lumbar ocelli and a paler triangle on the snout. Dorsal surfaces of limbs mottled with grey, brown or black. Forelimbs usually irregularly marked with orange or yellow, with similar colouration sometimes also present on ankles often similarily tinged. Dorsal colouration merges to white, cream or grey on flanks. Consistent lateral markings include an irregular dark line from nare through eye and along supra-tympanic fold, and a dark irregular bar above the axilla. Groin and posterior thigh similar pale or grey colouration to flanks and with grey mottling. Ventral surfaces usually evenly white, cream, grey or light brown, but sometimes flecked or mottled with darker markings. Iris heavily flecked with gold and pupil often bordered with a red or copper line. No sexual dimorphism in colour pattern evident.

Call. A finely pulsed ‘beep’ ( Fig. 3 AView FIGURE 3. A) of the characteristics outlined in Table 2.

Comparison. Only likely to be confused with other rainforest microhylids. Cophixalus australis  sp. nov. can be distinguished from these species (except C. ornatus  and C. hinchinbrookensis  sp. nov.) by the presence of large, truncated finger pads and by the mating call, which is a finely-pulsed ‘beep’ rather than a call with obvious pulses or notes. Cophixalus australis  sp. nov. is phenotypically similar to C. ornatus  and C. hinchinbrookensis  sp. nov.. There are multivariate differences in mating call and morphology between these three species (Hoskin et al. 2011) but they cannot be identified based on any single known phenotypic trait in the field ( Table 2). Colouration and pattern are highly variable within each of these three species. The only difference detected so far is that C. ornatus  typically has a yellow wash to the groin and posterior thigh ( Fig. 2View FIGURE 2 F), which is generally absent in the other two species. The three species can be reliably identified by genetics, representing divergent monophyletic lineages for both mtDNA and nDNA loci (Hoskin et al. 2011). For 16 S mtDNA, the SNPs presented in Table 3 and the GenBank sequences listed below can be used for identification. The three species can be identified in the field based on locality, except at sites within the narrow contact zone between C. australis  sp. nov. and C. ornatus  in the central Wet Tropics ( Fig. 1View FIGURE 1; Table 1).

Genetics. Cophixalus australis  sp. nov. is the ‘Central’ lineage referred to in Hoskin et al. (2011). A representative 16 S mtDNA sequence for this species from near the type locality is JF 743720View Materials (GenBank accession number). Other 16 S sequences for C. australis  sp. nov. are: JF 743692View Materials, JF 743693View Materials, JF 743695View Materials - 97, JF 7436999, JF 743706View Materials, JF 743710View Materials, JF 743714View Materials - 18, JF 743722View Materials, JF 743726View Materials, JF 743728View Materials, JF 743729View Materials, JF 743731View Materials - 34, JF 743738View Materials, JF 743740View Materials, JF 743744View Materials, JF 743745View Materials, JF 743747View Materials - 49, JF 743751View Materials, JF 743753View Materials, JF 743754View Materials, JF 743757View Materials, JF 743761View Materials (Hoskin et al. 2011). Cophixalus australis  sp. nov. consists of three genetic subgroups: (1) the ‘Mt Bartle Frere’ subgroup (BF), found on the Bellenden Ker Range, south-eastern Atherton Tablelands and Malbon Thompson Range, (2) the ‘Southern’ subgroup (S), found from the southern Atherton Tablelands down to the Paluma Range; and (3) the ‘Lowland’ subgroup (L), found in the lowlands around south-eastern Mt Bartle Frere, the Palmerston Valley area, Tully Gorge and Mission Beach (Hoskin et al. 2011; Fig. 1View FIGURE 1). The taxonomic status of these subgroups is covered in the Discussion.

Distribution. Found in the central and southern Wet Tropics: Malbon Thompson Ra, Mt Bellenden Ker, summit of Mt Bartle Frere and eastern and southern slopes, southern Atherton Tablelands, lowlands of the Innisfail/Mission Beach/Tully Gorge area, Kirrama Ra and Paluma Ra (south to Mt Halifax) ( Fig. 1View FIGURE 1; Table 1; Hoskin et al. 2011). The northern extent of the distribution on the Atherton Tablelands is approximately a line between Herberton and Topaz, with C. australis  sp. nov. known to occur at sites at least as far north as Mt Hypipamee, Millaa Millaa Falls, Topaz and Lamins Hill ( Fig 1View FIGURE 1; Table 1; Hoskin et al. 2011). Cophixalus australis  sp. nov. is common throughout mid and high elevations (up to 1500 m) but lowland populations (<400 m a.s.l.) are localised and only known from scattered sites in the central Wet Tropics: south-eastern slope of Mt Bartle Frere, Palmerston, Tully Gorge, Mission Beach and Innisfail area.

Habitat and habits. Cophixalus australis  sp. nov. inhabits rainforest. It also occurs in montane heath and boulder fields where these occur among rainforest, and in some areas it occurs in wet sclerophyll forest adjacent to rainforest. Males call during and following wet weather. Males call from elevated postions (0.3–3 m above the ground) such as on stems and trunks, among foliage and dead vegetation caught amongst foliage, palm axils, tree hollows and among rocks. The most common calling position is facing head upwards on a vertical stem approximately 0.5–1.5 m off the ground. Females are rarely encountered at night. When a female approaches a calling male, he changes his call to a courtship call (a shorter, higher pitched call) and leads the female to a nest chamber in the earth, under a rock, or in a hollow in a rotten log or stem ( Zweifel 1985; Hoskin 2004; Felton et al. 2006). Similar behaviour has been observed in Cophixalus kulakula  ( Hoskin & Aland 2011). Mate choice in C. australis  sp. nov. is believed to involve multiple steps: male call, male leading and nest quality ( Felton et al. 2006). As for other Australian microhylids ( Zweifel 1985; Hoskin 2004), C. australis  sp. nov. is a terrestrial breeder, with small clutches of large eggs. A clutch of 15 unpigmented eggs has been found under leaf litter in a tree hole, and was attended by a male (Hoskin 2004). Cophixalus australis  sp. nov. is an abundant frog throughout its range.

Site Locality Dec. Lat/Long Species

1 Mt Lewis, Carbine Tableland - 16.5108, 145.2695 C. ornatus  2 Harris Peak, Macalister Range - 16.6728, 145.4527 C. ornatus  3 Kuranda - 16.8267, 145.6544 C. ornatus  4 Lamb Range - 17.1063, 145.5913 C. ornatus  5 Mt Baldy - 17.2769, 145.4472 C. ornatus  6 Lake Eacham - 17.2827, 145.6314 C. ornatus  7 Gillies Hwy, top of the range - 17.2158, 145.6738 C. ornatus  8 Red Cedar, Gadgarra Forest Reserve - 17.2725, 145.6666 C. ornatus  9 Butchers Creek area - 17.3383, 145.7109 C. ornatus  10 Gourka Rd (end) - 17.3794, 145.7628 C. ornatus  11 Mt Bartle Frere, W access, 700 m - 17.3761, 145.7719 C. ornatus  12 Mt Bartle Frere, W access, 900 m - 17.3770, 145.7829 C. ornatus  13 Mt Bartle Frere, W access, 1100 m - 17.3820, 145.7881 C. ornatus  , C. australis  14 Mt Bartle Frere, W access, 1350 m - 17.3838, 145.7957 C. australis  15 Mt Bartle Frere, E access, 1350 m - 17.4081, 145.8186 C. australis  16 Mt Bartle Frere, E access, 1100 m - 17.4158, 145.8238 C. australis  17 Mt Bartle Frere, E access, 900 m - 17.4155, 145.8272 C. australis  18 Mt Bartle Frere, E access, 700 m - 17.4171, 145.8329 C. australis  19 Mt Bartle Frere, E access, 500 m - 17.4212, 145.8381 C. australis  20 Mt Bartle Frere, E access, 300 m - 17.4203, 145.8438 C. australis  21 Mt Bartle Frere, E access, 100 m - 17.4378, 145.8590 C. australis  22 Mt Bellenden Ker - 17.2677, 145.8691 C. australis  23 Malbon Thompson Range - 17.0863, 145.8796 C. australis  24 Lamins Hill - 17.3560, 145.7242 C. australis  25 Gourka Rd (halfway) - 17.3759, 145.7290 C. australis  26 Old Boonjie Rd (start), Topaz area - 17.3837, 145.7115 C. australis  27 Mausdale, Topaz area - 17.3967, 145.7022 C. australis 

continued next page C. ornatus  C. australis  sp. nov. C. hinchinbrookensis  sp. nov.